“Left” and “Right” camps of political ideologies, polemics and journalism are polarizing social debates and perceptions in India more than ever. It perpetuates a dangerous dichotomization of society in to two extreme perceptions, with either camps equally capable of irrationality and aggression. History of politics in India and elsewhere has taught us that both Left and Right governments, can violate rights in a myriad of ways – if a proper purpose is not established and maintained. India´s sedition laws (regardless of whether or not it is bad) offer a classical example.
Kumar, the president of JNU’s student union, was arrested and charged with sedition, and sent by the court to police custody. The core of the charge against him involves organizing protests at the JNU campus to mark the third anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru, a criminal who was sentenced to death in connection with an attack by militants on India’s Parliament in 2001. The Right-wing BJP at the centre ceasing the opportunity has used the law to quell political dissent within the JNU campus. While the extreme-Left screaming carpe diem initiates unwarranted polarizing debate over Guru’s guilt/innocence nation-wide, despite the judiciary and the President having closed the chapter years ago. Public memory seem to be surprisingly very short in India, as we conveniently forget how the Left-of centre-congress government misused the same sedition laws only a few years back. An Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was jailed in 2012 under the very sedition laws for cartoons that depicted the parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies , caricaturing Manmohan Singh and criticizing Singhs record. Political camps, be it the Left or Right have invariably used the law to muzzle criticism and dissent across the country, while maintaining allegations on one another for the same !!. So is one better than the other in the (mis)use of law and policy ? I dare say, not.
The same holds true for the Left and Right camps within intellectuals, journalists and the media. Either camps, analyse and offer arguments to score brownie points over one another, raising emotional prejudice against a pre-conceived notion of what the other means. Such perception wars not only displace objective and comprehensive evaluation of an issue but also much needed constructive consensus building over policy.
Although Left and Right still remain important markers for contemporary policy and politics in India, there is an increasing need to combine them in significant new ways to evolve a centre-front in Indian politics. Because the ideologies of the Left and Right simply restrict political alternatives to a binary, the best approach for advocates of democracy in India is to encourage a space for centre-politics with varying values and policy positions.